Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Wear Orange to show solidarity

Catherine Best & Dr Parveen Ali

In 2009 the United Nations declared:

‘Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it’.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals and in particular number 5 Gender Equality, recognises the essential foundation through which a peaceful, prosperous and viable society can live, work and grow and yet women and girls continue to be ostracised and both physically and sexually abused across the globe. There is no place for this in a civilised, gender equal world.

25th November is therefore dedicated as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This day should be emblazoned on the hearts and minds of all those who believe that violence against women is wrong. Every year this day aims to increase awareness about women’s rights and violence against women in all its forms. This year the focus will be on increasing awareness about rape and its impact. 25th November also marks the start of ‘16 days of activism’, which will end on 10th December 2019 on Human Rights Day.

Rape is only one type of abuse and sadly every day women and girls experience multiple forms. Violence against women happens at home, in the streets, in offices, in peacetime and in war. It takes many forms, including physical, psychological and sexual abuse. It affects women and girls of all ages, in the form of female infanticide, female genital mutilation, child marriage, grooming, trafficking, forced marriage, honour killing, domestic violence and intimate partner violence. Violence against women is associated with grave physical, emotional and mental health consequences. It not only impacts the lives of women victims of violence but also has a negative impact on children and families.

Gender-related killing of women and girls remains a major problem across regions, in countries both rich and poor. In 2017, this study affirms, the number of women killed by ‘intimate partners or family members’ accounted for 58% of all women homicide victims globally, and disappointingly, little headway has been made in preventing this most heinous of crimes. Within the UK deaths as a result of domestic violence have reached an all-time high in the last 5 years.

In the past few decades, much has been done to highlight this issue and to attract the attention of policy makers and practitioners at National and International level. As a result, many countries, around the world, have developed laws that aim to end violence against women, though the implementation of such laws remains challenging. There is undeniably a need to challenge and change societal and cultural norms, which do not condemn violence against women and to mobilise people in every walk of life to play their part in its prevention.
Campaigns across the UK have sought to raise awareness of the impact of domestic abuse, including those run by Refuge, Women’s Aid, White Ribbon UK and Neighbourhood Watch.

Disappointingly however, more still needs to be done before the world can start becoming a slightly better place for girls and women, where they don’t have to fight for their rights and where they are not abused and killed just because of their gender.

Economic issues are affecting provision of all kind of services, including services for women affected by violence. In the UK, for example, cuts to funding has meant many specialist domestic violence services have experienced financial issues and many refuges have closed. At the same time many perpetrators of domestic abuse are walking free as a result of the impact of funding cuts on police services. While, the Government seeks to bring perpetrators to justice through the Domestic Abuse Bill, a lot still needs to be done to improve the lives of those affected by it and to protect others from experiencing it. There needs to be a sustainable funding strategy for violence against women services, so the women and children are able to access the safety and support they deserve.

Within healthcare many nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals witness the impact of domestic abuse every day though they are not always effectively prepared to respond to the needs of these women. There is a requirement therefore to increase the knowledge and skills of all healthcare professionals, so they can provide effective support and appropriate care.

There are also various learning opportunities available. The number is increasing frequently and can be used to support revalidation. For example, the Royal College of Nursing provides resources that enable nurses to gain a better understanding of how to support affected women and their children. Further resources  include an interactive boardgame that aims to facilitate acquisition of knowledge through discussion and reflection… and why not sign up to an online, free course offered on the platform of FutureLearn. This course can help you confidently support those in need of your help.

All these learning materials present a wonderful opportunity to develop new knowledge and understanding in a world where sadly domestic abuse remains a significant concern, not just Nationally but Globally. Ultimately, it cannot be right that women and girls suffer at the hands of others simply for being well… women and girls. Can it?

Catherine best is Chair RCN Yorkshire and Humber Regional Board

Dr Parveen Ali, Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield

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